Friday, November 7, 2008

Bistro Blanc - Dining Review

Bistro Blanc is a newcomer in the wilds of western Howard County offering fine wines and food. At dinner recently we experienced some of the delights of local ownership, a young staff and ambitious chef working to carve their own space.

The restaurant is in an unlikely little strip off Ten Oaks Road near the construction of new roundabouts and a bridge over Route 32. You may get lost in the roundabouts before you find it, but have patience. Once you do, the interior is attractive, with two seating areas slightly separated from the wine bar and store. You can browse the wines and liquor for sale while you wait, or sample wines from the automated wine tasting dispenser.

Chef Marc Dixon's menu at Bistro Blanc is seasonal and already ahead of what's currently posted on the website. It's New American cuisine with a focus on fresh ingredients and sometimes complicated sauces. There's a welcome emphasis on presentation and texture as much as taste. When all three come together, it's a real treat.

Highlights of our recent visit included a grilled flatbread appetizer with portobello mushrooms, gruyere cheese and caramelized onions that was pizza-sized and ample for sharing. An entree of slow cooked salmon paired with a lobster reduction was exquisite -- it simply melted in my mouth while the flavors were rich and complex. Other diners raved about their entrees of lamb chops and wild rockfish.

Not every dish is a knockout. The clam chowder, grilled shrimp and scallop appetizers have each looked wonderful when they arrived at the table, but were merely good, not great. None of the dishes were misses, exactly, but they didn't quite match up with our expectations.

The desserts made in-house and cheese plates appeared nearly as ambitious as the starters and entrees. We honestly didn't have room for them after this visit, but we'll give them a try in the future, for sure.

On some visits, the servers at Bistro Blanc were impressively professional and well informed about the menu and wines. On others, we seemed to hit the rookie squad. In time, I expect they will become more consistent.

Bistro Blanc is a young restaurant that is still getting its feet on the ground. If you come in with high expectations, you may find some disappointments, but you'll also find some dishes that really hit the spot and offer a solid foundation for growth. It's wonderful to see a restaurant of this quality in western Howard County. It's not yet one of the very best in the county, but it's already getting close. We're eager to see it mature and find success.

Starters at Bistro Blanc run between $10-15, while entrees are between $17-23. An extensive list of wines by the glass are available between $7-25, with most in the $10-14 range. The wine tasting machine works off a $20 card available for purchase, with pours of a taste, half glass or whole glass.

See our capsule description of Bistro Blanc.

Update: Also see our Bistro Blanc - Dining Update posting.

Update: Bistro Blanc regularly holds special dining events. Check for them in our Monthly Restaurant Events listings.

Bistro Blanc on Urbanspoon

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